The People You Meet.
February 22, 2011 § 2 Comments
1) Where are you from? 2) What is your trip like?
These are almost universally the first two pieces of information traded when meeting other travelers. Since it’s just Joe and me most days, we enjoy the chance to meet people with whom we can share a drink or a conversation. Some random encounters have been with other Stanford people, identified by the gear. Once we chatted with a girl all day, only to find out at dinner she worked for the same company as me. We frequently meet others on similarly long trips, especially in places like Bolivia where people wouldn’t go for a short holiday visit. We’ve noticed some interesting trends in the kinds of people, though the categories highlighted below are by no means exhaustive. Today’s article focuses on other travelers — we will have to cover our favorite hostel owner and guide personalities another time.
PEOPLE WE ALREADY KNEW: We have been so lucky to meet up with old friends along the way. Katie (Joe’s high school friend) and her fiancé, Marcos, were invaluable friends to have as we started in Buenos Aires. My friend Jen visited Buenos Aires where we met her for dinner. Javier, one of Joe’s old coworkers, came down to Argentina with a group of Stanford friends, just so he could enjoy Noche de los Museos. We went volcano-climbing in southern Chile with Andrew, Shirin, and Chris (more of Joe’s work friends). My friends Eric and Craig spontaneously came to Bolivia, just as we were passing through. And now – we are finally getting to meet up with our families here in Peru! We hope to see more of you along the way…Eastern Europe this summer anyone??
THE HARDCORE: Just when we get too full of ourselves for thinking we’re SO hardcore for only taking 82 liters of crap with us and giving up jobs/creature comforts, we meet the people who inspire us to be a bit more daring. We met one German girl who raved about WWOOF-ing (volunteer in exchange for lodging at organic farms). There was a pack of Lithuanians with a funny story about hitchhiking on the way back from Patagonia in the rain. Several people regularly use couchsurfing to meet locals and save on lodging costs (people offer up their couch or bed for free – no strings attached). And while we have created a couchsurfing profile and briefly considered hitchhiking (once when the bus didn’t come, another time Joe was offered a ride without asking), we are definitely not among the most hardcore that we meet. Lots of people also carry their own camping gear and tend to cook for themselves way more than us (I think we have cooked about 5 dinners in 4 months).
THE DOWNRIGHT IMPRESSIVE: Everyone’s got a story, only some are more interesting. Like the Dutch anthropologist who lived in a small indigenous community in Peru’s Colca Canyon for 1 year, 30 years ago and comes back to visit his godson (now 26). There was the Canadian biathlete who at 19 was invited to the last olympics as one of Canada’s up and coming stars before she decided to retire due to pressure. Annie from England is credited for costumes in major movies including the latest Batman films. The Canadian we met in Uruguay is the chairman of the board of the 2nd largest Polish beer company. And also the girl on a Watson Fellowship wherein for one year she gets to pursue independent study and travel outside the country (though one catch is that family/friends can only visit for a total of 2 weeks over the year). All of these people were fascinating to converse with.
THE PEOPLE YOU MEET…and then MEET…and (sometimes) even MEET AGAIN: We were told early on that it happens ¨all the time¨, yet it still surprised us. You meet people, only to run into them again in a far away country in some random spot. Below are some of the most interesting; there were even more cross-border double sightings not listed.
- First there was the Maltese guy we saw on our bus at Superclásico in Buenos Aires and then again 756 miles and 12 days later in our hostel in Florianópolis, Brazil
- Even after one double sighting, we were still surprised to run into Alex & Sarah, from our hostel in Florianópolis, Brazil, in our hostel 978 miles and 9 days later in Córdoba, Argentina
- One of the most random was ¨Easy Sayid¨, the Israeli from our Córdoba hostel who we happened to pass by at a Bariloche bus stop, 780 miles and 16 days later
- We first met Ewa and Jason (from NYC) in Mendoza, Argentina, and were lucky to run into them 665 miles and 5 days later at a cafe in Cafayate, Argentina. We subsequently shared a rental car with them on the scenic drive to Salta.
- After meeting 2 girls from San Francisco at a club in La Paz, Bolivia, we were surprised to see them out of context, hiking on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca (Isla del Sol). And just when we thought we had gone our separate ways, we saw them across the border on a 3 day hike down into Colca Canyon in Peru.
- Finally, the winner of the distance and time award goes to Joelle and her husband, who we first met in Ancud, Chile on December 26. She recognized me 1,760 miles and 52 days later in Arequipa, Peru!
We will keep tracking and hope to keep meeting nice and interesting people…the most surprising will be if we see some of the same people when we change continents!